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2,3-Butanediol Synthesis and the Emergence of the Vibrio cholerae El Tor Biotype

 Sang Sun Yoon  ;  John J. Mekalanos 
 INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, Vol.74(12) : 6547-6556, 2006 
Journal Title
Issue Date
Acetoin/metabolism Acetylglucosamine/pharmacology Acids/metabolism Animals Biofilms/drug effects Biofilms/growth & development Biological Evolution Butylene Glycols/metabolism* Chitin/pharmacology Culture Media Fermentation*/genetics Glucose/metabolism* Glucose/pharmacology Intestines/microbiology Mice Mice, Inbred Strains Mutation Transcription, Genetic/drug effects Transcription, Genetic/genetics Vibrio cholerae O1/genetics Vibrio cholerae O1/metabolism* Vibrio cholerae O1/pathogenicity*
Vibrio cholerae is an aquatic bacterium that causes the severe diarrheal disease cholera. V. cholerae strains of the O1 serogroup exist as two biotypes, classical and El Tor. Toxigenic strains of the El Tor biotype emerged to cause the seventh pandemic of cholera in 1961 and subsequently displaced strains of the classical biotype both in the environment and as a cause of cholera within a decade. The factors that drove emergence of the El Tor biotype and the displacement of the classical biotype are unknown. Here, we show a unique difference in carbohydrate metabolism between these two biotypes. When grown with added carbohydrates, classical biotype strains generated a sharp decrease in medium pH, resulting in loss of viability. However, growth of El Tor biotype strain N16961 was enhanced due to its ability to produce 2,3-butanediol, a neutral fermentation end product, and suppress the accumulation of organic acids. An N16961 mutant (SSY01) defective in 2,3-butanediol synthesis showed the same defect in growth that classical biotype strains show in media rich in carbohydrates. Importantly, the SSY01 mutant was attenuated in its ability to colonize the intestines of infant mice, suggesting that host carbohydrates may be available to V. cholerae within the intestinal environment. Similarly, the SSY01 mutant failed to develop biofilms when utilizing N-acetyl-D-glucosamine as a carbon source. Because growth on N-acetyl-D-glucosamine likely reflects the ability of a strain to grow on chitin in certain aquatic environments, we conclude that the strains of classical biotype are likely defective compared to those of El Tor in growth in any environmental niche that is rich in chitin and/or other metabolizable carbohydrates. We propose that the ability to metabolize sugars without production of acid by-products might account for the improved evolutionary fitness of the V. cholerae El Tor biotype compared to that of the classical biotype both as a global cause of cholera and as an environmental organism.
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